In this comparison we look at the best portable 12v electric plug-in cool boxes and fridges to use in your car or whilst camping or on long journeys. As well as cars, some will fit in-between car or van seats and even in your foot well.
What we'll ask of each electric cool box is the following: size, weight, how long to cool down to chill your food and drink, soft or hard case, plug in options, will it fit in the foot well at the front to the side or behind the front seats if you don't have any rear passengers, hard or soft box, other features, temp it will go down to, reliability and other questions too based upon the type of cooler it is and any extra features it might have.
If you already use your 12v cigarette lighter to charge or run other electrical items in your car, you will need a multi 12v adapter, we highly recommend this Bestek Cigarette Lighter & USB Adapter. With an adapter you can plug in multiple devices, including an electric cool box all at the same time.
If you are to take anything away from this article and guide today, it's this; don't leave your electric cool box plugged in to your car over night, it will drain your cars battery.
So you're off on a huge road trip and camping holiday, a cool box could be vital to this adventure and just last week, we drove from the Lakes in the UK to near Brussels in Belgium. With our favourite and best electric cool box we could keep our food and drink cool and when out of the car our water stayed cool for hours and most importantly, it was kept out of direct sunlight. We even brought a small first aid kit and we even kept that in our little 12v cool box too as it has medicine and burn treatments in it.
We hadn't even thought about using it for medicine or anything other than food and drink you might like to have as luxuries for a camping trip, we can see how practical an electric 12v plug-in fridge for your car could be. If you have a medical requirement to cool medicine, make sure to test in your own home first as some of the ambient coolers only cool down relative to the outside temperature and won't always hit a fixed target of say 8celcius, if it's 20c in your car and it cools down by 15c then you can expect anything around or just above 5c.
Electric Cool Boxes Are Heavier Than Normal Cool Boxes
If you choose a heavier electric cool box, we would highly recommend a trolley, something for festivals or for camping holidays. Adding food and drink to an already heavy 12v cool box will mean that you can still move it around when setting up camp. Some of the boxes we have looked at are around 3KG and over in weight with two being 4 and 5KG and this is withhout any food or drink inside of them.
Keep Them Colder For Longer
Freezer blocks or gel will help keep your electric cool box colder for longer when it is not plugged in. We highly recommend freezing these before you set off on your journey so that it helps cool down your box more quickly and keeps the internals cooler than just the fan would sat in the lids.
If you are after a large, heavy duty electric plug-in cool box for your car or camper van, we highly recommend the Mobicool U32, it's 32L, cools itself better than the others and has both UK 3 pin plug and car adapters so you can use this pretty much anywhere.
All of the other cool boxes we have looked at and reviewed are all very good pieces of equipment and will work as intended. If you are after something for more personal use, in a van or driving about by yourself on solo adventures, we can recommend the Mobicool U8, its 8L internal space is goo enough for a couple of small drinks (cans or 300ml bottles) and a few food items. It sits itself perfectly in your car seat or in the foot well because of it's size and can even be carried on the shoulder with its shoulder strap. You can even take drinks out or food items and place them in to the drinks holders, especially good if you are lacking these in your car or are sat out camping and you just want to keep a few beers cold in front of a fire.
The remaining 3 are very solid items, sturdy, and cool well. If you are after a warming function the 24L cool box can do just that and the Vonshef will guarantee a temperature of around 10C. The only electric cool bag which let us down was the Mobicool bag. It looked really promising, you can pack it away when not in use which means it's not in the way when your not out and about or on holiday camping. But it was let down by its thermal properties, it just wouldn't get as cold as any of the others, this was probably down to the fabric used, zipps could have been airtight which we have seen elsewhere online for things like blow up rafts and the size of it. Hopefully future models improve on it as it is a promising product.
|1||Review of Mobicool U32 32L 12V & USB Car Cool Box Fridge||5000.00 g||32000.00ml||4.3/5||££££|
|2||Review of Mobicool T08 8L Thermoelectric Cool Box||3100.00 g||8000.00ml||4.3/5||£££|
|3||Review of 24L Coolbox & Warm Heater||5000.00 g||24000.00ml||4.3/5||£££|
|4||Review of Vonshef Electric 12V 21L Insulated Cool Box||3100.00 g||22000.00ml||4.4/5||££|
|5||Review of Mobicool MB32 32L Electric 12V Cool Bag||2000.00 g||32000.00ml||4.1/5||£££|
Review of Mobicool U32 32L 12V & USB Car Cool Box Fridge
This is what looks like the daddy of electric cool boxes, if you're after a larger car fridge for your vehicle, this could be for you. It can fit the most amount of large 2L drink bottles and chills to 18c below ambient, we review this product to see how it works for us.
Our model came with the USB plug which we have noticed older models have not come with. If you have a USB plug in your car, if it's newer then you can plug straight in to this as well.
It's the largest of the electric cool boxes we have tested and also the heaviest. If you are after something that will fit in a full nights worth of drinks or keep food cool for a large family whilst camping, this could be the one for you.
It is much larger than any of the others which means that fitting it in your car may be a struggle, if you can make a gap behind a passenger seat in the rear seats foot well of 40cm wide and 30cm deep, from the back of the passenger seat to the front of the rear seat then you can place this cool box there and still plug it in to your car. We have a small Panda and we could only fit it in this position when no one was sat in the passenger seat. For testing we had it plugged in and sat on the back seats with a belt around it.
The Mobicool 12v and USB Electric Cool Box keeps your food and drink chilled to 18c below ambient temperature outside. The only other which beats this on temperature is the Mobicool U8 8L and that is probably only because it is so small, we think that being 2c off with such a large internal space is a great achievement by this electric cool box.
Once we had it plugged in, it took around 30-45minutes to feel fully cool, or feel as cold as it would get. This was roughly the same for both AC and DC power supply in your home and in your car. This box comes with box the 3 pin UK plug and the 12v car cigarette lighter/USB for car use. These are stored in the top of the box and are hidden away which is great if you are taking the box outside whilst camping and it wont be used or plugged in for a few hours.
This really does a great job at keeping food and drink which could spol cold, it feels the coldest out of any we have tried actually, this is helped by how much the cool box walls are. The downside to this is the noise from the fan and motor when plugged in in your car can be heard, it's not too loud but there is a definite whirr as it cools the inside of itself. However when you plug this in via a 3pin UK socket, it is virtually silent, so using it on an electric hookup in the UK or abroad with the actual plug being used it should stay silent enough through the night for a good night sleep.
- Large 32L internal space for many food and drink items
- Really long cable for car use so you can put this anywhere in your car and keep the internals cool
- Stays cold even when unplugged for hours after, perfect for when using it for picnics and similar events you have driven to with no power supply
- Actually keeps food and drink cold
- The fan and motor can make a little noise when in the car, if you have windows open or music on, you probably won't notice it
- It is very heavy, weighing 5KG without any items inside, if you are older, maybe getting a trolley would help move it around
If you are after a cool box but want to keep things cool for long journeys and camping, this is absolutely perfect. Any food item that needs chilling will be fine in this large car fridge. It does take a while to cool down if it hasn't been used for a day or two but once cool will stay that way whilst you are driving and will hold it even when unplugged for a few hours when setting up your campsite.
You can fit many large bottles, meals and individual food items in the box as it has a large 32L internal space, so if you have a large family, this is the one for you.
Review of Mobicool T08 8L Thermoelectric Cool Box
This is a review of the car specific electric cool box by Mobicool, the T08 a plug in 8L electric cool box.
This is an 8L capacity electric cool box by Mobicool, unlike the cool bag which we have also reviewed, this cool box seems to actually keep the food and drink inside it cold. It is of a sturdy and well built build and has been made specifically for travelling in your car. Could this be the best electric car fridge and cool box available?
Like the others, place it in your vehicle and plug it in, on this model you select to turn it on and hat setting you want it at. It will aim for 20c below the ambient outside temperature, which is much better offering than most of the others which aim for 15c below ambient temperature, I think what helps it with this is it's small size.
It has a shoulder strap and a section to wrap a car seat belt around to keep it secure, but if you are two of you in the front, this will easily fit beneath in the passenger seat foot well and will still leave space for your passengers legs and the cable will easily reach from that position.
Because of it's size compared to others it will struggle to fit in any medium or large sized bottles. It states it will fit in a 700ml bottle lying down at the bottom and it probably will, we tried it with a 500ml bottle and that fitted with ease. When packing it, we recommend that you pack everything loose inside and that way you will fit more in it. Yes, things may move around or get in the way of each other but if you packed in boxes you'll definitely fit in less.
We did not test it's heating function but it does come with one and when you put in hot food, it should maintain the foods heat and not lose any of it. It won't warm up food from cold for you, if that is what you are after.
- Well made, feels really sturdy, especially being smaller
- Keeps food and drink items inside cold, colder than any other we have tested
- You can fit it in to different positions in your car or van, foot well, in between seats or even on a seat
- When unplugged it stays cold for hours, helped by getting colder whilst plugged in and its small size
- Has a shoulder carry strap so you can take it between places with ease
- Doesn't fit bottles in any bigger than 700ml
- You only get the 12V power supply to plug in to a car cigarette lighter, costs more for UK 3 pin plug adapter
- It is small, if you are after cooling multiple bottles, keeping food from spoiling then maybe too small for you, the reason it stays so cold though is due to how thick the outer walls of the cool box are
If you only have a select few items or you pack the electric cool box well and store large drinks outside, this is an amazing little plug-in 12v cool box for your car. You can put it near enough anywhere and if you have a campervan or van you could even get it in-between seats as well.
It has a carry handle you can put over your shoulder and stays warm long after being unplugged. If you need more than some food items and a small bottle though you might have to look elsewhere.
Or if you think it's big enough, you'll enjoy how quiet this little cooler fridge is and how convenient it is to have.
Review of 24L Coolbox & Warm Heater
This is a review of a 24L Cool box and food warmer, it can be plugged in to a UK socket and a 12V car cigarette lighter. It's extra functionality of warming up as well as cooling make this an amazing product if you are after something that does both.
This cool box is 24L in size, so the 3rd largest we have reviewed and has both a cooling and warming feature inbuilt. It comes with both a car adapter (12v) plug and a UK 3 pin wall socket. This is another great feature, as with this, you can have it plugged in at home to cool down or warm up in preparation for putting food items or other things in to the box.
Where this electric car fridge differs is that it cools down the internal space to 15c below that of its surrounding ambient temperature. Unlike others we have looked at, this one will take the food and cool it own to 3c inside the cool box if the outside air temperature is 18c. Others promise temperatures of 8c, 12c, lower etc but this one runs from the ambient outside temperature and cools down that. This probably makes it easier to keep cool as if it was hot outside it doesn't have to work extra hard to get it down to a certain temp, but this does mean if it was 25c outside, it will only get the box down to 10c, which will still keep food fresh.
Inside you can see like others, the top lid of the box acts as the fridge and cools down the insides when it is sealed, plugged in and turned on. This means you lose a little bit of space in the top but not too much, 24L is still plenty for an electric cool box and should keep a small family good for a few days.
Now if you are wanting to keep food warm because you are making meals and sending them to a party or event for the evening in your car, this would be perfect for it as well. You can probably get over 20 style indian/chinese flat plastic boxes in there stacked on top of each other and this car food warmer will keep all the food at a great 65c.
Unlike the Vonshef which only fits in 1.5L bottles, this 24L electric cool box and warm box will fit two 2L bottles next to each other in an upright position on one side. You can see the space at the top where the electric parts stick out have a gap for these when the lid closes and seals.
The whole thing is made of ABS plastic like the Vonshef and has a carry handle which feels sturdy and good for carrying the 12v car fridge to wherever you need it. Although, when carrying it, it is a heavy object, without anything in it it weights 5KG, so again, we'd recommend a trolley if you were to use a couple of these in your car or are older and would struggle with the weight of it with food and drinks in it.
Another nice feature from this electric cool box is the partition shelf which you can fit in a number of different ways to organise your food and stop it from all getting mixed up or items falling over, especially if they have liquids in them.
Plugging the box in to the car cigarette lighter using the DC power supply will give you continuuous cold air in to your cool box. Just select cold > DC and place the box wherever you can fit it in to your car. This electric cool box was too big for our front passenger seat foot well so we put it behind the passenger car seat in the rear foot wells of the rear seats. I'm 6'1" tall and my seat is quite far back and with the limited leg room we had to move our passenger seat slightly forward to fit it in, but once there we had cold drinks and food which would last an entire journey being kept cold and were very happy with it.
Being bigger we thought it would be louder but actually it wasn't, this was another little thing we were happy with, we have been pleasantly surprised by this little car gadget.
- Cools down and keeps food and drink warm with its 65c heat option
- Nice big 24L capacity, big enough for 2L tall bottles and plenty of food
- Not very loud, comparing it to others we have looked at it was one of the quietest
- Box feels really sturdy and will keep your food chilled hours after being unplugged from your car
- You're not going to get the same cold temperature you do with your fridge, especially since it cools it down from ambient/outside temperature, still, things feel cold which is good but just not fridge cold
- This electric car cooler is heavy, it's 5kg without anything it, yes, most of the weight is in the device which sits in the lid and you can carry these separately but it still needs to be carried
We are really impressed with this option, big enough for mot day/multi-day trips in a car and if you're car is really big you can fit it to your side next to your feet at the front foot well.
It can keep food warm as well as keeping it cool, it runs off ambient temperature though, so if you use it on very hot days, it will only reduce the heat inside by 15c but this is good enough for us and what we used it for, nothing needed to be frozen or near frozen, just kept cold so a drink was nice or the food didn't go off for that day.
It's not a bad price and is a quiet device considering it's size and weight.
Review of Vonshef Electric 12V 21L Insulated Cool Box
This is a review of the Vonshef 21L Electric Cool Box which we test on long car journeys and for adventures out whilst camping.
Lets take a look at this Vonshef 22L capacity electric plug-in cool box. First impressions are it's big and it's blue, it looks exactly like any other cool box out there, but this one has a neat little cable that comes out from the top and plugs straight in to your 12v car cigarette lighter, giving you an easy to use car fridge.
Some of it's other features include internal cooling to 8-12°C. So if it was mid 20°C outside or in your car, this cool box will be able to keep anything inside to a nice cool 8°C. It has a carry handle and locking lid which means when it's locked, it helps keep the inside cool and whatever is in there won't be coming out. You also get a nice 2 year warranty with this product which is great, especially as it's an electrical item and may not last.
As you can see, the electrical section and cooling part of the cool box takes place in the lid, which is the part you plug-in to your car. The cable has it's own section which you can fold up and put in when you take the cool box out of the car and it will work just like a regular cool box then, keeping the lid closed will keep the internal section cool.
Internal Space of 21L and Size
With this space you can fit in a 1.5L bottle stood upright, we tested it successfully with 2 bottles stood next to each other at one end and then food items to the side of the bottles.
It has dimensions of 40 x 24.1 x 40.5cm and weighs 3.1kg empty, after adding a couple of bottles and some food we were still able to comfortable move the cool box around and could carry it up to distances of a few hundred yards without problems. If you are older, this may be heavy for you and we recommend a trolley for moving it.
Now with the size, 40cm tall we were able to get it in to the foot well of our passenger seat but only by placing it parrallel the the front of the passenger seat. So it does fit in this space in our little Panda but it does get in the way if you had someone sitting there. We instead chose to place this electric cool box behind the drivers seat and the cable could still reach great and the passenger could lean back and grab items from it. Being 24cm wide it fits snuggly behind the front seats aiin the foot well section of the rear seats.
One of the downsides to this electric cool box is that although it looks like a regular cool box, the lid pertrudes and sits down in to the internal space, meaning that anything you put in to the cool box may be in the way of the lid locking. So before you jam everything you think you need in to the 2L space, test what will and wont first.
- Fits quite a large amount of food and drink in it to keep it all chilled
- Sturdy and well made, we bashed it around a bit moving it from the car to the home and to camping spots and it took it all well, luckily the cooling electrics are in the lid which doesn't get hit much
- Great price
- Cools down to as low as 8c which is perfect for use in the summer in the UK and abroad, great for anything that needs chilling and not frozen
- The cooling section in the lid drops in to the internals so you lose a little bit of space inside the cool box
- You can only run this on a 12v charge, it doesn't come with UK plug or USB fitting but this is still great for a car, van or campervan trip
- It is a bit noisy but running it along in your car you wont be able to hear it over the noise of driving or music so that should be fine, but if you run it whilst camping from a battery or solar panel through the night, you may hear it buzzing and whirring away whilst it keeps your items cold
A great sized family electric cool box to plug-in to your cars cigarette lighter and used as a car fridge, enough space to keep in a few days worth of food for a small family. Especially good for using for camping as well if you want to connect it to a battery or solar panel as you can move it from your car to your camp spot without too much issue.
Not a bad price for something that will guarantee your food and drink stay chilled to 8c. It looks like a normal cool box but has the added benefit of being a portable electric cool box, we're impressed.
Review of Mobicool MB32 32L Electric 12V Cool Bag
This is a review of the Mobicool 32L Electric 12V Cool Bag, a plug in cool bag which you can use in your car, at an event or whilst camping to keep food, drink, medicine cool. It runs off of ambient temperature making the inside 15c cooler than outside and is a fold away bag.
An electric cool bag, we've looked at this product to see how it compares to the other 12v and plug-in cool boxes to use in your car. Because it's a cool bag, it has one positive and one negative, the positive being that it can be folded up and packed away in to such a smaller space than any other which isn't being used, this also means it weighs less. The negative point it that the fabric doesn't insulate and keep the internals as cool compared to a hard plastic box.
It is 32L so one of the biggest we have looked at, it's a great size and because of this you can fit in a lot of food and drink, including plenty of wine, it will easily fit in 6, maybe more wine bottles, especially good if you are heading to a party for the evening and want to take drinks which need cooling before they are drank.
We really like the look of this bag, it's sturdy, zippers feel well made and strong and it looks like it will do a fine job at keeping our food and drink cool. Like the 24L Cool Box, it works on an ambient temperature of the outside and will simply cool the bag internals to 15c below your outside temperature. If you are in a warm car, expect this to be somewhere around 10c.
Although it looks great, we tested it with various food items and drinks on a long journey. The drinks it was great, we could unzip, grab a drink and it was cold and refreshing. The same could not be the same for the food, our food spoiled after a long 8 hour drive, we could have eaten and drank before this but it was a test to see how it would do and if it was left all day.
It does look like a great product but the internal cooling mechanism just isn't strong enough or the insulation properties of the fabric aren't good enough. Also placing it own in your car, because it's a bag, it will lose it's shape, unlike the cool boxes.
This makes things worse when you unplug the bag, if left in a warm car or unplugged for some time, it will warm up within just an hour or two.
- Looks awesome and feels really robust and sturdy for a bag
- Will keep bottles of wine, beer cool and refreshing on warmer days, perfect to take to an event
- Lighter than the others at only 2KG
- Has a carry strap so you can put it over your shoulder to carry around
- It won't keep much else cool enough and not for long enough either, food will spoil in this cool bag
- Not the cheapest out of the ones we have looked at
This electric cool bag will keep drinks cooler, food cold for a few hours journey but won't do much more than that. If you are wanting to keep food that may spoil or go off for a few days, this is not the cool bag for you. If you just want it for long car journeys and to keep wine and food chilled then it would suffice, but not for any long adventure and especially not for food that will spoil, it just doesn't get cold enough.